April 27, 2003
Transatlantic 14 Days/Ft. Lauderdale to Barcelona
are Jim and Sue, in our lower 50's, married a couple years ago - all
kids grown and gone. Our cruising choices tend toward the ships that
offer a more elegant experience rather than a casual style.
We especially appreciate the atmosphere on formal nights where
Celebrity is doing a good job of “gently enforcing” the dress
code. We spend a great deal of
time relaxing in our cabin rather than joining shipboard activities,
so for us a suite makes a lot of sense. Since we love sea days and we
had not visited any of the port cities in Europe, the crossing seemed
like a perfect voyage. It
our first cruise with Celebrity, a 14-night cruise on Mercury a few
years ago, we became acquainted with Captain Adamidis and his wife
Joyce. Joyce and I keep in
contact by email and it’s always wonderful to see them again; they
make the cruise very special. We
also sailed with them last September on Millennium.
When we first sailed Millennium we weren’t sure we would like
it due to the size. We loved
it! She is still the most
beautiful ship we’ve sailed. My favorite public room is the Platinum
Champagne & Martini bar; I love the lavenders and grays and the
crystal light fixtures.
this trip involved transatlantic air, we booked it through Celebrity
because the fares were better than I could find.
We flew to Ft. Lauderdale the day prior to sailing and
Celebrity put us in the Hilton, which was a nice but nothing special
hotel. We chose not to use the
Celebrity transfers and used a taxi to the hotel and the next day to
morning we ordered room service breakfast and dressed for boarding.
We arrived at the cruise terminal at about 11:00 and after
turning our luggage over to the longshoremen went into the terminal to
wait for the doors to open. The
door for Captain’s Club and suites was opened at 11:15 and since we
had all our paperwork in order, we were headed onboard within 10
minutes. A waiter with glasses
of champagne greeted us at the gangway entrance into the 3rd level
Atrium. This is a really class
touch that Celebrity has added during re-branding.
Since it was a bit early for our suite to be ready, we took our
champagne to the Cova where we could sit quietly and watch the
activity on the level below. After
a short while, I couldn’t wait any longer and we headed for our
Royal Suite (6141).
though we have had a Royal Suite before it still excited me to enter
it. The walls are wood paneled
and the carpet and soft furniture are off-white. The dining area has a
table for four and an inlayed parquet wood floor and is surrounded by
mirrors and cabinets. There is
a desk near the sliding doors that comes with a computer – Internet
access for this whole trip was $100. The bedroom has the same colors
with the entire wall that makes up the headboard of the king-sized bed
done in padded leather [mock-leather?]. In a small alcove near the
sliding balcony doors is a dressing table.
I love having a dressing table all to myself and out of view of
the rest of the cabin. The area
in which it is located could stand better lighting, but being prepared
I had a lighted makeup mirror so the dim light at night didn’t
bother me. There are
plasma-screen TVs in both the living room and the bedroom and a CD
player in the living room. We
always take a folder of our favorite CDs with us, but we like the Jazz
channel available on the Celebrity system so well that we rarely play
our own CDs.
suite is 538 sq. ft. with an additional 195 sq. ft. of balcony; room
for two padded teak lounge chairs, a table with four chairs and a
small Jacuzzi tub. Perhaps the
only drawback is that there is only a partial cover over the Royal
Suite balconies – the rest is open and since these suites are
located in the aft area of the ship that sticks out from the area
above, all of the cabins above can look clearly down on you.
bathroom is done in marble and has two sinks on a long vanity, plenty
of storage space, a marble shower and a great Jacuzzi tub with another
shower. On our last trip I used
the (bathroom) Jacuzzi almost every day, I love the jets that massage
up and down your back so I was quite disappointed when the tub
didn’t function well and the back jets didn’t move.
We reported it and after several days of repairs, they
succeeded in getting it to work [sort of work].
Butler was Elias and the Cabin Attendant and assistant were Kinga and
Alex. They were very
professional and we enjoyed their service immensely.
We had several cocktail parties prior to dinner and Elias made
sure the champagne was chilled and that our appetizers were delivered
right on time.
back to the trip. After
checking out the room and going out onto the balcony, we rearranged
the living room furniture. I like to have the couch and loveseat
opposite each other rather than in an L-shape.
Now, with it feeling like home, we began looking at the Daily
Program and other information and goodies provided.
We found that we had been given the wrong dinner seating; that
provided us the impetus to head out of the suite.
We changed the seating to early dinner and then went to the spa
to make an appointment for a couple’s massage.
When we returned our luggage had been delivered and we began
putting everything away. Jim’s
tux and several other things were sent for pressing.
Then we checked to make sure everything was ready for our small
sail-away party. The lifeboat
drill was at 3:15 and went smoothly, although lasting a bit longer
than usual because it was done in several languages.
We rushed back to the cabin.
guests, most of whom we had only met online through the Cruise Critic
message board, began arriving. Soon,
Joyce, her son Haris and the Hotel Manager’s wife Antonella joined
us and with the three blasts of the whistle we were sailing.
Several bottles of champagne later, it was time to end the
party and go down to dinner (casual attire).
We were seated with another very nice couple at a table for
eight and had an enjoyable dinner. We
remembered to tell them that we don’t often go to the dining room
for dinner and not to wait for us if we aren’t there by 6:00.
This was fortunate because we only ended up eating in the
dining room three times. With
the time change and traveling we were too tired to do anything after
dinner and after a nightcap on the balcony went to bed.
2 was a sea day.
This gave us ample opportunity to roam the ship and relax in
preparation for dinner at the Captain’s table.
We had breakfast in the suite and later met Joyce for a
cappuccino in Cova. The weather
was fairly cool and windy but the area around the pool was full.
We chose to spend most of the time reading and watching the sea
go by. Time went by very
quickly and soon it was time to join the other Captain’s table
guests in the reserved area of the Platinum.
It was a great mix of guests, some other friends of the
Captain, another man from Denver, Roswita Arnet (from Celebrity HQ)
and most notably John Maxtone-Graham and his wife Mary.
I didn’t realize who he was when he joined the group, but
noticed the tall man in the kilt. John
is the noted author and lecturer on ocean liners; we not only enjoyed
all his onboard lectures but also had the good fortune to have several
conversations with him. After a glass of champagne and introductions
we were lead through the dining room to the Captain’s table.
This for me is the biggest honor one can receive; I remember on
many early cruises seeing the people seated there and assuming that
they were very rich, famous or some other type of VIP.
Some are… and some are “just regular people” like us.
Following dinner the Captain was to give the “Welcome
Onboard” speech in the theater, but as we were again, very tired we
declined going. The show that
night was the Broadway hits and everyone said it was the best they had
3 we were at sea
until 3:00 when we docked at Kings Wharf, Bermuda.
After breakfast in the room we attended the first of John
Maxtone-Graham’s lectures and then the Cruise Critic/Connections
party in Michaels Club. About
40 people attended and Leigh, the social hostess, hosted it.
After about an hour and a half of socializing we all went to
the grand stairway for a group picture.
We browsed through the shops onboard a little and then returned
to the cabin.
weather cleared just as we were docking and, as we love to do, we
watched from the chairs on our balcony.
It was so pleasant out there; sunny but not too hot that we
decided to skip this port. We
took some pictures of the fortress on the hill near the dock and did a
lot of people watching through the binoculars.
When the sushi bar opened at 6:00 at the Ocean grill (10 aft)
we went up so I could give it a try – excellent.
There were eight or ten different types and they were all good.
Jim opted for pizza that he said was good.
4-8 were at sea.
Our routine is pretty much the same each day, breakfast and
dinner in the suite and a lot of relaxing so I’ll just hit the
highlights. We attended John
Maxtone-Graham’s lecture each morning; in fact, we looked forward to
them so much we scheduled everything around them.
Each day following the lecture we would stop in Cova and have a
cappuccino. By this time we had
gotten to know several of the Officers and staff so we were often
joined by Leigh Vincent-Lambert, the Social Hostess, Hotel Manager
George Livertatos and his wife Antonella, or the Captain and Joyce.
had two early evening cocktail parties with people from the Message
Boards and enjoyed meeting everyone. Elias
chilled our champagne, delivered our hors d'oeuvres and always checked
in during the party to make sure everything was ok.
night we had dinner in the Olympic with another couple and Joyce.
The Olympic is well worth the surcharge (or gratuity as
Celebrity prefers to call it). We
spent some time looking at the pictures and items from the original
ship that are on display in the entry.
We ate in the larger white dining room; it's very spacious and
elegant but I would request a table in the outer room that is paneled
with wood from the original ship. At
first, reading the menu seems a little skimpy as you can only choose
soup or salad, but the food is so rich and filling that we absolutely
waddled out. I should note here
that the attire for the evening was casual but for the Olympic it is
always informal to formal so we dressed up.
the onboard cruise consultant, booked our next cruise for us, the New
Years Mexican Riviera on Mercury. This
is one of Celebrity’s new Escape cruises (adults only).
We will be onboard with some friends from our prior Millennium
evening we had our Couples Massage in the suite. With just a little
moving of the furniture there was plenty of room for the two massage
tables. We turned the lights
low and had nice music playing. When
it was over – and the hour went by much too quickly – we had a
nightcap and crawled into bed. This
is really a life I could get used to!
of these sea nights was a formal night and we rejoined our tablemates
in the dining room. Another
couple had been moved to the table and they were all surprised to see
us. We had a great dinner and
conversation. After dinner we
went into the casino and visited with some new friends that were
playing blackjack. This casino
is great; the décor rivals those in Las Vegas.
There are Grecian (or maybe Roman) statues on the pillars and
many mirrors. If it weren’t
for the noise of the machines (which I hate in any casino) I’d
probably spend more time in it.
weather during the crossing was cool and we found the balcony of our
suite to be too windy to spend much time on, but there were a few
die-hards sunning by the pool even on the coolest days.
The T-pool in the spa, on the other hand, was very busy as it
is in an enclosed area and was warmer than the outdoor one.
I like the subtle décor of the T-pool area and although the
pool itself isn’t quite as nice as those on the C-class ships, there
are two hot tubs that are very hot and very popular.
I guess I should explain why I say the pool isn’t as nice –
The pool itself is very nice and well kept but it is much larger,
cooler and the jets and spouts don’t seem to have a good amount of
pressure. It’s really more of
a luxury indoor pool than a therapy pool.
9 we docked in
Funchal (Maderia), Portugal at noon. We took the Cable Car and Sledge
excursion. It was well done
with first a narrated bus tour of the city, a stop at a winery for a
tasting, and then we were dropped off at the base of the mountain to
ride the cable car to the top. After
the ride up we walked to the line waiting for the traditional Sledge
ride down the winding streets nearly to the bottom of the mountain.
These sledges (also called toboggans) are wicker baskets with wicker
seats with cushions attached to wooden sled-type runners.
Two men control the sled by steering it with ropes on each side
over the roadway, which I should note is shared with cars.
It was a thrilling, but not frightening ride.
The Island of Maderia is semi-tropical and was full of flowers
during our visit. It is a
beautiful place that I hope I can visit again in the future.
returned to the ship around 6:00 and asked Elias for a dinner menu –
he said there was no problem requesting en suite dinner this late
because so many passengers were still off the ship.
10 we were again at
sea following our usual routine and had another cocktail gathering
11 we docked in
Lisbon, Portugal at 7:00 a.m. We
barely woke up in time to see the ship dock and had to report for our
shore excursion at 7:45. We
took the Jeep safari to Sintra. It
was fantastic, only 16 people had signed up for this trip and we were
divided between three large jeeps with drivers.
We traveled through the countryside, through a National Park,
and atop the cliffs at the ocean’s edge with several stops for
photos. At one small town we
stopped at a family winery for a tasting (and a comfort stop) that
also included several local cheeses and sausages with wonderful bread.
Sintra is a picturesque town we would have liked much more than
an hour to around before we started the return trip.
The jeeps dropped us back at the ship.
We were hot, tired, hungry and dusty so we decided to freshen
up and get some lunch before we went into Lisbon.
comes our comedy of errors: 1) We didn’t eat first and 2) We had a
healthy “toddy” with the Portuguese brandy we had just bought and
stretched out in the living room to relax.
When we woke up a couple hours later (me with a large
headache), all ambition to leave the ship was gone so I can’t report
12 we docked in
Gibraltar at 11:00. Since the
ship was moving very slowly we were able to sit with our coffee on the
balcony and watch the approach. The
Rock is certainly something to see; it was particularly impressive
because the morning was somewhat foggy and suddenly it just seemed to
appear out of the fog. We had
the “Rock of Gibraltar” tour booked here, but if I go back I
won’t book a tour because everything is nearby.
We were taken in 8 person vans on a short tour of the area and
then went up the Rock. We
toured Michael’s Cave, which has interesting stalagmites and
stalactites and we stopped to see the Apes.
These are the only wild monkeys in Europe.
They are wild, but used to humans and will grab anything that
they can get. I was warned not
to have any jewelry or loose clothing, so I removed my earrings
(luckily). We were busy taking
pictures of them when I spotted a baby sitting on a rock at the side
of the road – I
though it would be interesting if Jim could get a picture with both me
and the ape to give a sense of their size.
The little one immediately jumped on my arm and as Jim tried to
take the picture, the little guy tried to bite me – he didn’t
break the skin, but did make a bruise (it made a great story back on
the ship). And… Jim didn’t
get the picture. As I attempted
to coax the little guy back, a bigger one jumped on my back – Jim
got that picture! So that part
of the trip ends well. After
the tour we stopped at a Pub and had fish and chips and then returned
to the ship.
13 we docked at
Malaga, Spain at 7:00 a.m. Here
we had booked the tour to the Caves of Nerja.
It involved a long bus ride with a mediocre guide who spent
most of his time teaching us how to pronounce Nerja and gave us little
information about the area. The
cave was really spectacular but had many stairs to climb and some of
the people had difficulty.
returning to the ship, we said goodbye to some new friends who were
disembarking to spend a few weeks there, got a bite to eat and then
headed back out for a horse & carriage ride through the city.
That ride was great. Our
driver didn’t speak much English and our Spanish is pretty poor so
we had a great time trying to communicate - most of it laughing.
14 was a sea day
and the realization that the trip was almost over set in.
After breakfast we went to the photo gallery to check for any
last photos and didn’t find any we wanted and then delivered a few
invitations to our last cocktail party.
As we wandered through the ship we ran into many of our new
friends and said our goodbyes. At
1:00 we met Captain Adamidis & Joyce and George & Antonella in
Cova and then went to the buffet for lunch with them.
We had a wonderful time – then it was back to the cabin for
the dreaded repacking. It
actually went very quickly and then we settled back with our books
until time for the cocktail party. Everyone
came including Captain & Joyce, John & Mary Maxtone-Graham and
a few special friends we’d made during the voyage. We ate hors
d'oeuvres and finished off the champagne and then said our goodbyes.
We watched the clock and then went to the dining room as early
dinner would be nearly over to give our envelopes to the staff and say
our goodbyes to the tablemates we’d hardly gotten to know.
We were notified that our original 1:00 flight was canceled and
that we had been rescheduled on an early flight.
We were to meet in the Atrium at 7:45 and would have a special
bus to take us to the airport. When
I saw the number of people in the Atrium I began to wonder how we were
all going to fit on a rebooked flight.
When we arrived at the airport they were offering “bumps”
because it was overbooked by about 40 people.
The offer was so good that we couldn’t pass up the
opportunity to spend the day in Barcelona so we took it.
We were put in Hotel Fira, a four star hotel and all meals paid
along with a nice amount of Delta Dollars.
We walked up to the museum a couple blocks away, then had a
huge lunch at the hotel. In the
afternoon we had a four-hour bus tour of the city that stopped at
several locations. I fell in
love with the architecture of Gaudi and want to go back to Barcelona
to really visit the city.
flew home the next day and after 26 hours of flying and airports were
glad to be home. Now it’s back to real life.
want to give special thanks to Captain and Joyce Adamidis, Hotel
Manager George and Antonella Livertatos, and Social Hostess Leigh
Vincent-Lambert. These people really made this trip special.
Additionally I want to compliment Richard Fain and all of
Celebrity management for the new “rebranding.” I appreciate all
they are doing to keep Celebrity at the top of its market category.
sad note: Joyce informed us that several days into the next sailing,
Dominique, the head Sommelier who had served us several times at the
Captain’s table, passed away due to a heart attack.
We offer his friends and family our sympathy.
We, and no doubt many others will remember him fondly.
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